Choose When program offers free, long-acting birth control to Moffat County women
- To learn more about sexual well-being, safe sex and sexuality visit: beforeplay.org
- A community funded project helping women get IUDs and hormonal implants at low or no cost. IUDs and implants are long-acting, reversible and safe.
- For more information, to donate or signup to the email list visit: choosewhen.org
- To get involved with Focus on Women and/or the Choose When project email email@example.com.
- Northwest Colorado Health at 970-879-1632 or 970-824-8233
- Planned Parenthood at 970-879-2212
CRAIG — Free, long-acting, reversible birth control is now available for low-income women in both Routt and Moffat counties, thanks to the efforts of the Choose When program.
The program is the first project for Focus on Women, a community group that started in Routt County last winter to talk about women’s issues.
“Women coming together helping each other is such a power thing. We hope it is an incubator of ideas to bring solutions to problems in our area,” said Steering Committee Member Adrienne Southworth.
A steering committee of about 10 women helps organize gatherings. The group now has more than 400 people signed up for its email mail list.
“Choose When is our first, and currently our only, project. There are other ideas brewing,” Southworth said. “We were interested in doing something to help women and their families. … Many of our conversations came back to the impact of unplanned pregnancies.”
According to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, nearly half of all pregnancies in Colorado are unintended, meaning they occur sooner than desired or when no pregnancy is desired.
Unintended pregnancies are associated with the following.
- Birth defects
- Low birth weight
- Elective abortions
- Maternal depression
- Increased risk of child abuse
- Lower educational attainment
- Delayed entry into prenatal care
- High risk of physical violence during pregnancy
- Reduced rates of breastfeeding
- Teen mothers are less likely than their peers to earn a high school diploma or GED.
- Nearly all unplanned pregnancies occur to women who weren’t using birth control at all, or not using it correctly or consistently.
“We kept hearing about the Colorado Family Planning Initiative and the positive impact that it had,” Southworth said.
In 2008, CDPHE secured more than $27 million in funding from a private donor to launch the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, an expansion of the 40-year-old Family Planning Program.
The initiative provided training, operational support and low- or no-cost, long-acting, reversible contraceptives, or LARCs, to low-income women, statewide.
“Current forms of birth control available for low-income women are not as safe as LARCs. However a LARC has a higher startup cost. Many low-income women don’t have the funding to get a LARC,” said Northwest Colorado Health Center Director Gisela Garrison.
In only five years, according a 2017 report by CDPHE, when LARCs were provided through the initiative, the following outcomes were observed.
- Teen birth rates were nearly cut in half.
- Teen abortion rates were nearly cut in half.
- Births to women without a high school education fell by 38 percent.
- Second and higher order births to teens were cut by 57 percent.
- Birth rates among young women age 20 to 24 were cut by 20 percent.
- Average age of first birth increased by 1.2 years among all women.
- Rapid repeat births declined by 12 percent among all women.
- More than $69.6 million in costs were avoided.
“Those numbers were really extraordinary,” Southworth said.
In Moffat County, CDPHE data showed teen pregnancy fell from more than 50 births per 1,000 females between 25 and 49.9 births per 1,000 females.
LARCS are 99-percent effective at preventing pregnancies.
“That means only one woman in 100 using a LARC will fall pregnant,” Garrison said.
Depending on the type and brand, LARCs can last from three years to 10 years; they can also be removed at any time with an almost immediate return of fertility.
CDPHE funding for LARCs stopped about two years ago, Garrison said, once again limiting access for women with no or low-income and/or without insurance.
“Choose When became our local grassroots solution to that problem. We want to offer LARCs to all women in all of Northwest Colorado,” Southworth said. “We started where we could, where we live, and we are planning on expanding, currently in Moffat, and soon in Rio Blanco, Grand and Jackson (counties).”
Since the beginning of 2017, more than $200,000 has been raised from private donors to support Choose When.
“The response from our community has been extraordinary,” Southworth said. “We had planned at the beginning to provide about 100 LARCs by the end of the year. We are on track to reach that number.”
Northwest Colorado Health is the fiscal sponsor, providing the 501(c)3 requirements for accepting money and administering the program.
The group can serve anyone, regardless of their ability to pay — including providing birth control options to minors without parental consent.
“It was important to make sure this program is available to minors,” Garrison said. “Two groups that ask about it and benefit from it the most are young women still in high school. The other group are women who have several children and want to space out or prevent more children.”
Choose When also makes LARCs available through Planned Parenthood in Steamboat Springs and hopes to expand partnerships with other Northwest Colorado providers.
Focus on Women also continues to grow.
To learn more, visit choosewhen.org, and join the mailing list, or find them on Facebook at choosewhensteamboat.
“Anyone can be part of Focus on Women; it’s a free organization,” Southworth said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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